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Douglas Fir Facts

  • Patina on Douglas Fir Floors

    Posted on February 19, 2011 by nell

    Douglas fir flooring is widely admired for the way it looks after years of use. That use results in its distinctive patina. It’s like I’ve seen numerous times on Antiques Roadshow™. (No shame – I really like that show.) An antique furniture expert is appraising a 100-year-old table and says something like, “It’s really too bad this was refinished at some point.” Boom, the piece suddenly loses value.

    But why wouldn’t an owner want to refinish their furniture? Or floor? Doesn’t the refinishing process give the wood a new lease on life? Yes, but it takes away the original patina, that much sought-after condition that tells you something has a history. A Douglas fir floor that looks old lends a room character and charm. It’s one reason why they cause people to ooh and ahh over the warm feel of a place.

    Wood takes years to naturally patina. It happens through years of use, and exposure to the sun, as well as other environmental factors. Refinishing a floor may take away some original patina, but the wood has still aged, and will therefore look aged even when a few layers have been peeled away. In general, when new flooring is laid to patch or match older flooring, it will take a while for the new to blend with the old.

    For homeowners who want their Doug fir floors to have an aged look there are a number of methods used to patina floors. One common trick is to “fume” flooring with ammonia, which makes it darker. To make flooring look distressed, professionals and DIY’ers alike use tools such as hammers, steel wool, wire brushes, chains, and sandpaper. Another method for prematurely aging wood is by applying petroleum jelly, vinegar, or shoe polish. The list of tools and methods goes on and on. Anyone who has made a science out of aging wood has their own method.

    Of course, time also ages any floor, but waiting for it to happen would be like waiting for water in the pot to boil, times 100. All sorts of tricks will get the floor closer to an aged look, if done properly. Perfecting the process takes experimentation and, yes, time. But it can be a worthwhile route for homeowners wanting floors to look aged earlier rather than later.

    This post was posted in All Entries, Douglas Fir Flooring and was tagged with Douglas fir flooring, douglas fir floors, douglas fir patina

  • Let’s talk about Doug fir’s Janka hardness

    Posted on February 3, 2011 by nell

    Douglas fir flooring gets called out sometimes on the topic of Janka hardness. We can’t help feeling the need to defend its reputation a bit. Before we get into it, a brief definition follows. Janka hardness is the amount of force it takes to push an 11.28 mm (.444”) steel ball into a plank of wood to half the ball’s diameter. In the U.S., numbers listed as a wood’s “Janka hardness rating” represent the pounds of force required to embed the steel ball halfway. It can also be measured in kilograms or newtons, depending on where you are.

    Our elementary Janka illustration.

    The U.S. Janka hardness rating for Douglas fir is 660. This puts it fairly low on the scale. Does that make Doug fir a bad choice for flooring? We don’t think so. It’s true that there are plenty of woods that are harder, but we don’t agree that makes a big difference over the lifetime of a floor. Douglas fir will last for decades with moderate maintenance (regular sweeping & an occasional cleaning). As with any wood, when the grain is tighter, the wood is harder.

    Janka hardness is commonly used to determine a wood’s durability, especially in relation to flooring, but it is not an absolute determinant. The best way to prevent scratches, dents and general wear on fir flooring (or any wood flooring) is to apply a quality finish and keep the floor clean and well maintained. In other words, start with a high-quality finish, take your shoes off when you enter your home, and keep the floor clean. Nothing does damage on wood flooring quite like shoes (high heels are like tiny powerful hammers) and neglect.

    What do you consider a good lifetime for a floor? Does 85 years work for you? My own house is that old, and still has its original Douglas fir floors. We refinished them ourselves when we moved in a year ago. They are still beautiful, and the previous owner of 30 years had dogs. We’ll keep those floors as long as we’re in the house.

    Ultimately, choosing Douglas fir floors comes down to taste. What we like about it is how it looks and feels. The color is warm, and the wood wears beautifully. Even when it goes for a long time without being refinished it remains a durable floor. The Douglas-fir is a heroic tree conditioned to withstand harsh coastal, mountain, and coastal-mountain weather for hundreds of years. This endurance does translate to the quality of the lumber, and the quality of the flooring.

    This post was posted in All Entries, Douglas Fir Flooring, History and Interest and was tagged with Douglas fir flooring, douglas fir floors, janka, janka hardness

  • Should I get 3¼” or 3⅛” Douglas Fir Flooring?

    Posted on February 2, 2011 by nell

    We get these two questions a lot:

    1. What’s the difference between ” & 3⅛” Douglas fir flooring?
    2. Why does ¼” make such a difference in price?

    These are great questions. The simple answer is this: 3¼” is an old standard width, and 3⅛” is a current standard width. Fifty or more years ago, the rough boards milled into flooring boards were a true 1”x4”. These days, the size of what is called a 1x4 is actually ¾”x3½”. While that does seem strange, it’s an industry standard.

    What that change means for flooring is that milling a 3¼” tongue and groove flooring board is no longer practical. Milling 3¼” flooring from a current 1x4 rough board would mean the loss of the tongue or the groove -- not a good thing. Therefore, 3⅛” has become a standard flooring width.
    3¼” boards are still made in lesser quantity, however, to meet the needs of homeowners across the country seeking a few replacement boards for their historic 3¼” Douglas fir floors. We feature 3¼” flooring with exactly those customers in mind.

    3 ¼” or 3⅛” flooring? Would it bother you if these 2 different widths were in adjoining rooms?

    So, which width might be right for you? It likely depends on the look you want. Clearly, if your project calls for replacing a small patch of your historic 3¼” flooring, we recommend using boards with the same size! We would never suggest patching 3¼” with 3⅛”. That would be foolish.
    But, if you’re wondering about the difference in quality between the 2 widths, there is none. We sell both widths in a clear vertical grain (CVG), C & Better grade, which means boards have an average of 10-25 rings per inch.

    Unless you seek a look that is authentic down to the width of the flooring, we recommend 3⅛”on new flooring to keep your costs down. You might even consider buying 3⅛” for a room adjoining one with original 3¼” flooring. The difference in width is slight, and once installed it would be hard to tell the difference. Ultimately, that judgment is up to the consumer, of course. We wouldn't want the flooring in your home to drive you crazy.

    Below are some of the products we reference in this blog post:

    This post was posted in All Entries, Douglas Fir Flooring, Care & Maintenance and was tagged with Douglas fir flooring, douglas fir floors, 31/8", 31/4"

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